Nicholas Conley's mysterious coffee obsession.

Before we begin, I should probably answer the obvious question:  what in Sam Hill are these so-called Coffee Moments™?

And to that, my reply is this: Coffee Moments™ are those special experiences, those memorable stories from our past, that will always contain the line “and as it all happened, I was drinking a cup of coffee.”

Coffee Moments™ can be thrilling, sentimental, scary and/or victorious.  Maybe your favorite Coffee Moment™ was sitting in that diner with your future spouse, on your first date.  Maybe it was the coffee you took with you to that interview where you finally landed your dream job.  Maybe it was the coffee you drank when you finally got into the college you most wanted to get into.  Perhaps it was even a cup you sipped while fixing up your first car.

Coffee Moments™ can be anything, to anyone, as long as these moments contain a cup of that wonderful caffeinated beverage.

It took a lot of thought for me to isolate the top five favorite Coffee Moments™ from my life, but I’ve finally settled on the five memories that I keep coming back to:

Sedona, Arizona.

5. All those top secret childhood coffees

This is where it all began, back during my childhood years in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.  The first thing that I remember loving was the smell—so alluring and unlike anything else.  Then, the taste, on the occasional times when one of my parents would allow me a sip.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what started my coffee obsession was simply what drinking coffee meant.  As a child, seeing all of the adults I knew holding their mugs and talking about serious things, my young mind perceived coffee as being the gateway to adulthood.

So, when I was around eleven years old, I started sneaking cups.

In the morning, before school and before anyone woke up, I began waking up earlier than anyone else and secretly concocted coffee drinks for myself, drinking them and then washing the mugs.  My tastes have changed so much since those days; my first coffees were Folger’s Instant, mixed together with lots of heavy cream and lots of sugar.  I never would have suspected that, all these years later, my preferred taste would be strong black coffee, but that’s life.

In any case, these mornings were where my love of coffee began.

Nicholas Conley having coffee in Reykjavik, Iceland

Nicholas Conley having coffee in Reykjavik, Iceland

4. First cup in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Yep, some of you will remember this picture!

I think my nostalgia for this particular Coffee Moment™ has a lot to do with my overall affection for Reykjavik itself.  As I’ve stated in prior blogs, Iceland is a startlingly beautiful country.  Getting off the plane is like taking a portal to a mythological fantasy world that somehow possesses contemporary technology, with one of the friendliest populations I’ve ever met.

When my fiancée Veronica and I first landed in Iceland, it was during the so-called midnight sun—that is to say, twenty four hours of sunlight—so after getting into Reykjavik, we spent the next few hours wandering the city, marveling at the beautiful architecture and the wonderful oddness of seeing a sunlit sky in the dead of night.  From there, we went down to the Bus Hostel, crashed for the night and then woke up, whereupon one of the friendly staff members prepared this incredibly tasty cup of coffee for me—or kaffi, as they call it in Iceland.

As with most of my top Coffee Moments™, although the coffee itself was amazing—strong, dark, smooth—what really made it special was the amazing experience that surrounded it.

Nicholas Conley in New Mexico

3. Motel coffees for the road

So, let me quickly delve into some of my back story: after graduating high school in North Carolina, I took off into the heart of the USA and spent some time living on the road, traveling down the highways and exploring all of the locations I’d always wanted to see.  This trip would turn out to be one of the defining experiences of my life; the sense of freedom was mesmerizing, as well as the realization that I was capable of going anywhere I wanted to go, being anyone I wanted to be, and moving from place to place as much as I wanted to.  Everyday was a new experience, a new city, usually a new state…

…and, at the end of each night, a new motel.

Since what mattered to me was seeing the new places and having new experiences and insights, most of the motels I stayed at were fairly cheap, standard stuff.  I would generally pick them by two factors: first was price, and second was distance to my next location.    I went to a variety of different places, but there was one factor that almost all of them had in common: complimentary coffee.

Sure, the coffee itself was never much to write home about.  It was quickly made, cheap and usually brewed in a drip machine.  But what mattered was that it was there, it was accessible, and it was a free bonus that brightened every early morning.

Some of my favorite moments from that great road trip were all the mornings I would wake up, go to whatever new motel lobby I’d found myself in, and then pour myself a cup of hot, black complimentary coffee.  With that coffee in hand, I’d then plan out my route for the coming day, and then take off to another new place that I’d never seen before.

The Cage Legacy

The Cage Legacy

2. Right before I found out The Cage Legacy was going to be published

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how long ago it was.  I had submitted The Cage Legacy to Post Mortem Press some months beforehand, and as I waited for a response, I’d tried to put it out of my mind.  Still, my hopes, dreams and fears had continually resurfaced at least once a day.  Will they accept it?  Is it going to happen?

Publishing a novel with my name on it had been my life dream since childhood.  I’d spent years working toward that dream, working through the rejections, publishing short stories and repeatedly coming back to the same novel I had worked on since I was 17.

And then, on one warm afternoon, I was sitting at my computer in the tiny, old-fashioned brick apartment that Veronica and I shared at the time—our first apartment together, the place where we started to build our dreams together.  Veronica was out running an errand, and I was at the computer, jotting down notes.  The sun was just beginning to sink into the horizon, and feeling a bit tired, I stepped to the kitchen and made some coffee in our French press.

Another day, another black coffee.

But then, when I got back onto the computer, there was something new flashing in my inbox…


1. That last North Carolina cup

This one goes without saying. I even wrote a story about it!

When I first moved out of North Carolina and embarked on my solo trip across the country, I shared a few final moments with my mother, in the house that I’d grown up in—and of course, we shared some coffee. The memory stayed with me, needless to say.  The story I wrote about it, “Echoes of Leaving,” was first published in the A Word With You Press anthology, The Coffee Shop Chronicles.  It can still be read in that collection, and can also be found on my blog.

While I’ve had many wonderful Coffee Moments™ before and since, there hasn’t been a single one that so clearly marked a divide between two periods of my life in such a clear fashion.  I’ll never forget that moment, and I’m glad of that.

And there are my five moments.  Hail to the java bean.


So hey guys, let’s hear it.  You’ve read my list, and now it’s your turn: how many of you have a treasured Coffee Moment™ or two that you’d like to share?

44 thoughts on “Top 5 Coffee Moments™

  1. 1) Meeting a past love at a coffee shop. We were in line and began to volley back and forth banter about a particularly high maintenance patron at the counter. We ended up standing outside talking, with our individual, less high maintenance coffees, for the better part of an hour. It was the start to a memorable relationship in my life that though bittersweet now, meant a great deal to me. When we had an argument or a misunderstanding, one of the two of us would bring the other coffee, as a reminder of that first moment/attraction.

    2) My first cup of coffee in Manchester, UK. I was exhausted from the long flight and the time difference and jet lag, but I was determined not to fall asleep during the daylight. I found a bookstore/coffee shop and had a very strong cup of coffee.

    3) Road trip coffee from an all-night gas station/truck stop. The coffee wasn’t the best, but the trip was, and taking that first sip while the sun was rising over the desert was pretty fantastic.

    4) First date coffee. All those jittery nerves and excitement, the exchange of stories each of us had never heard before. I don’t think either of us would believe we’d one day have a child together. We didn’t last, we were both far too young and had different paths to follow, but somewhere I still have a matchbook from that little cafe we had that first date coffee at.

    5) So many late night coffees at 24-hour diners with friends, shared amidst the kind of late night conversations that go everywhere and make you feel so alive, and inspire later writings. I don’t think I could pick just one of these.

    Thanks for the inspiration – and the coffee memories. Hope this wasn’t too long of a comment.

  2. I love the stories that you shared. You have had quite a few great moments with coffee. Here’s what I remember about my first experience with coffee. My first cup was given to me by my aunt at her house during a holiday. I think it was Christmas. I had no idea what coffee tasted like and wanted to fit in with the adults. I believe I was about 12 years old at the time. I remember thinking at first, that it was the worst tasting drink that I had ever had, but the more I drank, the more I started to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. I finished the whole cup because I didn’t want to be wasteful. I think it was quite a few years before I ever had another cup. I remember my mother being upset at me for drinking it in the first place. I drink at least one cup everyday now. Unfortunately, because of health reasons, I am limited to decaf.

    • Well hey, decaf still counts! I’ve always felt like so much of what makes coffee so good is about what it means, what the presence brings to a setting, the connections it creates, et cetera.

      Sounds like you had a memorable first experience. What sort of mixture did you have that time? Was it black?

      • Yes it was a memorable experience. Coffee seems to do that… It was black the first time, because I didn’t want to seem wimpy by putting all the extra stuff in. I remember thinking that tough people drink their coffee black and that’s the kind of impression I wanted to make. It’s probably why I didn’t really care for the taste back then. I love my coffee with a little bit of flavored creamer now. White chocolate is my favorite flavor. I don’t like my coffee too sweet though. Too much creamer and it ruins the whole cup! I don’t believe a person can truly be inspired to write, unless they have a hot beverage of some sort sitting beside them while they write. The two just go together and coffee or tea gives the proper setting for an abundance of imagination. What is your opinion on this?

  3. It’s great that you can recall such defining moments associated with a cup of Java Nicholas. The moments themselves certainly seem worthy of note.
    I daresay some defining moments in my life have been while I’ve been having a drink but I can’t always say it’s been with coffee since the UK is renowned for it’s tea drinking. I can remember though that during the late 50’s my first experience wasn’t of rel coffee but with a substitute called Camp Coffee which was made from chickory, a hangover from the lean, rationed years of the war. It was probably 1964 when I first visited a coffee bar as a teenager and had my first real coffee as it was a ‘Cool’ drink back then and coffee bars were a new thing to a young teen.
    Keep well,

    • Ah yes, chicory root coffee! I actually drink that sometimes as an interesting substitute, though the brands of chicory root “herbal” coffee available today are probably different from the one you had at the time. Where was this first coffee bar you visited?

  4. Excellent post, love all the coffee moments, it is amazing how in retrospect they seem to have a deeper meaning than at the time. I think my bestest coffee moment was my first in the U.S., it was a Starbucks and we sat outside in the heat of the day as the world passed by and my fortnight stretched before me. It not only helped me after all the travelling but gave me chance to sit and take stock of where I was and what I could do. For that brief moment, it really was the land of the free.

    • Now there’s a hallmark Coffee Moment™ if I’ve ever heard one! A perfection combination of a new place, new possibilities and a new cup of coffee.

      Where in the US had you landed, at the time?

        • Oh yes, Washington state is interesting, I’ve had some great times there. I’d definitely recommend checking out other states, as well; the US is a pretty eccentric place, almost like 50 different countries loosely rolled into one and somehow sharing the same currency.

  5. Hm hm, this might inspire me to write about coffee too!
    Though I have to admit that as a child, I hated the smell. Especially in the morning, it made me nauseated. But then I started drinking cappuccino and that turned out to be very good 🙂

  6. Ah, memorable Coffee Moments. First of all, I love this idea for a blog post. Coffee truly is a beautiful thing.

    I think my favorite coffee moments would have to be at a previous job. I worked in a quirky little coffee shop in a small town and made some amazing friends there! I almost always had a coffee or latte (or a shot of straight espresso if I was feeling bold) sitting either under the register or in the back kitchen. I made some amazing friends there and really started to grow and become the person I am today at that job, always accompanied by a coffee.
    Even now, making coffee is the highlight of my job. We grind and brew every cup individually. When it’s busy, it’s the one time I get a chance to stand still and just enjoy the aroma and the beauty of the process. I know tea drinkers often say the process is a very important part of the tradition of tea drinking, but the same can be said of coffee if it’s done right.

    And now I want a coffee. But if I have one now I won’t be able to fall asleep and I have to wake up in 10 hours for work, so I suppose it will have to wait til morning.

    • Hard to imagine a more perfect source of Coffee Moments™ than working in a coffee shop! I’m sure you must have dozens of them.

      I definitely agree in regard to the importance of the process; there are few things as satisfying as a freshly ground, well-prepared cup.

  7. I enjoyed reading your post and finding out about your coffee moments. You’ve had some great experiences. Your life seems a good bit more interesting than mine, so I’m afraid my coffee moments are not really in the same league.

    An added problem is that a cup of coffee is seldom the thing that caps an already exhilarating moment in my life. Much more often, it’s the thing that grabs me by the collar in the morning and slaps me to consciousness. In other words, most of my memories of coffee are rather hazy and indistinct.

    I’d still find it hard to get through the day without the stuff, though.

  8. Lovely writing. Really got me thinking. Most of my Coffee Moments involve a journey or a fresh start. The first day in my first proper job- I remember feeling like such a grown up walking into the office, coffee in hand. Good memories.

    • Thank you for the compliments. And yes, the memory you describe here is definitely a perfect example of a Coffee Moment; a new doorway, the next passage of one’s life, fully completed by a coffee. Great stuff!

  9. Lovely to have a term to refer to those memories – Coffee Moments☺☺ One of my top one was after the birth of my daughter. I had been almost off coffee for 9 months and suddenly the smell was so invigorating and I can still remember cuddling my little girl and drinking that first big mug after a long time….

  10. I believe I’ve had coffee moments but they all take place in the early hours of the morn; right before an early work shift or the first sobering brew after a night on the town that lasted until sunrise. I’ve had at least one special Tea moment which I will remember forever and was no weaker than any coffee moment if only in it’s caffeine intake. 🙂

    Great post though, Mr Conley I enjoyed the genesis from instant to quality ground glory!

      • It was In a tea house called Brew, a place I believe was trying to do for tea what starbucks did for coffee. I met the love of my life there and we drank something called gunpowder blend. We still look back on that memory very fondly and its quaintness, of how we found each other when she simply Invited me to tea. Perhaps the most distinctively british romance to date :p

        • That’s perfect! Even though it’s a “Tea Moment,” it’s definitely in the same spirit as a Coffee Moment, so we’ll count it.

          Also, this “gunpowder blend” sounds excellent, I’ll have to try it.

  11. Reblogged this on and commented:

    I just brewed a pour over coffee, and as I’m enjoying it, I thought I’d look back on one of my favorite blog posts from back in 2015. I’ll probably list some new moments one of these days, since there’s been quite a few in the last two years.

    But what about all of you? What are your top Coffee Moments?™

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